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O’Neill’s illegal logging: 392 days and counting…

July 22, 2014 Leave a comment

392

It is now 392 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.

It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.

O’Neill has promised to cancel the leases and stop the illegal logging several times and last month he announced an NEC decision ordering the cancellation of some of the leases

But we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 392 days O’Neill has failed to act on the Commission of Inquiry findings, failed to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

peter-o-neill

Australian run company given black eye by Paga Hill community

July 11, 2014 3 comments

They have been shot at, had their houses bulldozed, been beaten up by police, and threatened by private security guards and armed thugs – but still the community at Paga Hill continue their struggle against the Australian run Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC). And on 1 July they achieved a significant victory.

The Supreme Court has ruled [see judgement below] that lower Paga – a community whose origins extend back into the 1960s – sits on reclaimed land, outside a state lease (portion 1597) which the current developer, according to the Public Accounts Committee, obtained through ‘corrupt dealings’.

Lower Paga entered the national stage back in May 2012 when police helped bulldoze properties on the harbour  foreshore, leaving hundreds homeless. The developer’s Australian CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, told the Australian press that the community were merely ‘squatters and settlers and criminals’.

Police open fire on unarmed civilians during Paga Hill forced evictions

Police open fire on unarmed civilians during Paga Hill forced evictions in May 2012

Now questions must be raised over how the company managed to jointly organise a demolition – they have confessed to hiring the bulldozing equipment – buttressed by heavily armed police, on land lying outside their state lease.

The company is trying to spin their gutting Supreme Court loss as a victory. On 1 July PHDC posted on their facebook page, ‘Supreme Court delivers judgement – PHDC granted vacant possession, upholding previous National Court decision’.

Then comes the all important caveat: ‘Area with SDA church deemed to reside on a separate deemed on separate title and within path of ring road. PHDC encourage NCDC and Curtain Bros to pursue a comprehensive resettlement solution’.

And sure enough the same words, almost verbatim, appear in the Post-Courier a day later. Yet no sub-editor stopped to ask why a SDA Church would need to be ‘resettled’! Odd indeed.

Had they bothered to ask a near obvious question they would have discovered that the reclaimed land outside the lease also includes a large swathe of the community, encompassing hundreds of families; right where PHDC’s much vaunted marina is evidently going to be pitched, alongside its assortment of ‘luxury’ facilities (somehow intersecting with a busy four-lane ring road?).

Of course, the Post-Courier is not known for checking corporate press releases before publishing them as news. Had they given the court order even a cursory glance they would see it is the Paga Hill community who are the victors, their leader Joe Moses vindicated after a two year legal struggle, punctuated with police intimidation.

The Supreme Court victory is the first tentative step towards justice for Paga Hill – serious questions remain over how the developer has managed to maintain its grip on a 99 year state lease over Portion 1597, which encompasses a former national park, despite serious evidence of illegality which has been documented in a report tabled before parliament.

It is also time that the government took stock of its lawful responsibilities, and investigate the CEO of Paga Hill Development Company, who has run companies censured in numerous Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee report, in addition to media and human rights investigations. For example:

  • In 1996 the national government paid Fridriksson K2.5 million for Destination Papua New Guinea, a book (yes K2.5 million for a book!) riddled with what Sean Dorney calls ‘appalling mistakes’. To secure payment, Dorney claims Fridriksson offered a Finance Department officer a cut of the payment.
  • The Auditor General alleges CCS Anvil – a company owned by Fridriksson and Paga Hill Development Company shareholder George Hallitt – wrongfully seized K1,966,677 from the sale of deceased PNG estates, when advising the Public Curators Office (CCS Anvil has acted as Paga Hill Development Company’s ‘project director’).
  • According to the Auditor General K4,872,375 in ‘unlawful’ payments were made to CCS Anvil by the Public Curators Office.
  • K79,500 in unlawful payments  – according to the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee – were made by the East Sepik Provincial government made to CCS Anvil
  • K375,799 in alleged unlawful payments were made by the Parliamentary Service to CCS Anvil (documented by the Public Accounts Committee)

Paga Hill Court Order 1 July 2014

Paga Hill Court Order 1 July 2014 p2

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 382 days and counting…

July 11, 2014 Leave a comment

382

It is now 382 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.

It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry.

O’Neill has promised to cancel the leases and stop the illegal logging several times and three weeks ago he announced an NEC decision ordering the cancellation of some of the leases

But we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 382 days O’Neill has failed to implement the Commission of Inquiry findings, failed to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

peter-o-neill

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 380 days and counting…

July 9, 2014 1 comment

380

revised_SABL_billboard-small

RH has become the government of PNG

July 7, 2014 1 comment

Professor Andrew Lattas*

I have just arrived back from Pomio, where the clear felling of the bush and subsequent oil palm planting are in full swing despite the fact that the vast majority of villagers oppose both. ..

Caption

The area clear felled is huge and stretches from Mauna, Lau, Bairaman Mu to Puapal where proposed oil palm plantings cross the Unung River and continue to Malakur. This huge area of land is being given away to Malaysian companies, indeed is being stolen from villagers with the active participation of the state and government officials

Villagers are powerless to stop these activities, which continue even though SABLs have recently supposedly been revoked. This looks likely to have the same status as the police Commissioner’s public order (Dec 2011) that police be pulled out of logging camp sites. The police never were removed. Indeed, it is only their continued presence, violence and intimidation that prevents villagers from setting up road blocks to protect their land, gardens and environment.

What is clear to me is that for most local villagers in Pomio the state has shifted away from them and is largely in the pockets of large Malaysian logging companies.

These companies control important governments departments and officials in crucial departments such as Lands, Forestry and the police force. The same applies to other officials in the District administration, Local Level Government, Provincial Administration and national government departments. Nearly all sectors of the state have been co-opted into coercive pro-development policies that seek to privatise land and resources without villagers consent.

Local workers  accommodation is matchbox size single rooms for families that are separated only by thin ply wood walls

Local workers accommodation is matchbox size single rooms for families that are separated only by thin ply wood walls

These logging companies were supported and gave support to the local national member for Pomio who is now in jail for corruption charges. The large funds of money these foreign companies provide at election time has transformed voting into a patron client relationship that props up local, provincial and national government politicians who support the Lease-Lease back schemes (SABLs).

Police and company directors often tell complaining villagers that the land is no longer theirs but belongs to the state which has leased it from them so as to lease it again to the Malaysian companies. The state has become the crucial intermediary in the forced process through which villagers lose control of their resources and especially their land. Much of this depends upon the production of dubious reports by the Lands Department, which collects and produces lists of signatures that are highly selective in that they are not the signatures of major clan leaders and of those who represent the majority of villagers.

The accommodation of Chinese management is at the top of the hill and luxurious by comparison

The accommodation of Chinese management is at the top of the hill and luxurious by comparison

Through the SABLs and the Private, Public Partnerships, the Somare government created two interlocking policies that have institutionalised corruption in PNG to a point where villagers find it almost impossible to achieve forms of justice concerning the fraudulent nature of state processes that have effectively dispossessed them of huge areas of land.

Officials in departments like forestry write reports that are not just wrong but are intentionally designed to conceal and legitimise the forced appropriation of land. For example, one “explanatory” letter by the local forestry official in Pomio concerns the late night visit of the armed riot squad to the village of Mu in 2012 where villagers were forced by police to sign English documents that they could not read. This was said to be not at all violent intimidation, but was simply the police correcting an administrative oversight. The riot squad had just gone to collect the names of villagers who had attended a recent meeting over logging, where record keeping had been poorly implemented. None of this explains the swearing and violent demeanour of the armed police and that the signatures were collected forcibly and from many who never went to the meeting. The state is not just incompetent but has become the crucial instrument for foreign large scale capital, it is state officials who seek to manage and placate opposition to the loss of vast areas of customary local land. They produce the dodgy reports that seek to sanitise and obscure what is actually happening on the ground.

Worker spraying herbicide in shorts and thongs, no boots, gloves, mask or overalls is provided. The wind blows the chemical spray onto the worker's body and clothing, endangering also his children and family when he returns to the village

Worker spraying herbicide in shorts and thongs, no boots, gloves, mask or overalls is provided. The wind blows the chemical spray onto the worker’s body and clothing, endangering also his children and family when he returns to the village

Recently RH [Rimbunan Hijau} has shifted tactics and there has been a movement away from using the violence of the riot squad to intimidate opponents. Instead there is a greater use of courts and restraining orders to prevent the organisation of protests. The cost of legal action has become another form of intimidation that is meant to penalise protesters and their leaders. The judiciary has now become co-opted into this realising a coercive development agenda that has little respect for people’s customary property rights.

__________

* Professor Andrew Lattas
Dept of Social Anthropology
University of Bergen Fosswinckelsgt. 6
5007 Bergen,
Norway
ph: + 47 55589261
e-mail: andrew.lattas@sosantr.uib.no<mailto:andrew.lattas@sosantr.uib.no>
http://www.uib.no/persons/Andrew.Lattas#publikasjoner
 
My new book Dreams, Madness, and Fairy Tales in New Britain is being published by Carolina Academic Press http://www.cap-press.com/isbn/9781594607271
http://www.amazon.com/Madness-Britain-Carolina-Academic-Monograph/dp/1594607273/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288341022&sr=1-2
 <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/0299158047/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books>[Dreams, Madness, and Fairy Tales in New Britain book jacket]
 http://www.amazon.com/Cultures-Secrecy-Reinventing-Directions-Writing/dp/0299158047
 
Recent writings:
Lattas, Andrew and Knut Rio. 2011. Securing modernity. Towards an ethnography of power in contemporary Melanesia. Oceania, 81 (1) 
Logging, landowner companies, military policing and the great resource rip off in PNG
Lattas, A. 2011. Logging, violence and pleasure. Neoliberalism, civil society and corporate governance in West New Britain. Oceania 81(1): 88-107.
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2012/04/pomio-logging-lawlessness-a-crisis-in-legitimacy.html
http://www.actnowpng.org/content/australian-academic-accused-playing-race-card-defend-malaysian-loggers
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2012/04/landowner-companies-a-money-siphoning-scam.html
Australian anthropology and the NT Intervention Lattas, A. 2012. Consultancy, Neo-Liberal Conservatism and the Politics of Anti-Politics, Oceania, 82 (1): 113-118 Lattas, A. and B. Morris. “Embedded Anthropology and the Intervention: cultural determinism and neo-liberal forms of racial governance,” Arena, Sept 2010. http://www.arena.org.au/2010/09/embedded-anthropology-and-the-intervention/

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 375 days and counting

July 4, 2014 3 comments

375

peter-o-neill

O’Neill’s illegal logging: Corrupt officials to block SABL reforms

July 1, 2014 3 comments

372

The same corrupt officials in the Department of Lands who facilitated the illegal SABL land grab are now blocking the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry recommendation to revoke the unlawful leases, as Radio Australia reveals below.

While sitting on the Commission of Inquiry report for more than a year the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Lands Minister Benny Allen have failed to act on promises to eradicate the corruption and remove the officers responsible. They  have even left one of the main facilitators of the land grab, Romilly Kila-Pat, as Secretary of the Department!

Return of titles to PNG land scandal victims delayed

By Jemima Garrett for ABC Radio Australia

Critics say the leases are a back-door way to clear-fell forests and many have been granted without the permission of traditional owners. (Credit: ABC licensed)

The leases are a back-door way to clear-fell forests and have been granted without the permission of traditional owners. (Credit: ABC licensed)

The return of millions of hectares of Papua New Guinean land to traditional owners affected by a land-leasing scandal has been delayed.

The return of millions of hectares of Papua New Guinean land to traditional owners affected by a land-leasing scandal has been delayed.

Lands Department Secretary Romily Kila-Pat last week told Pacific Beat hundreds of thousands of affected landowners could expect to have their land back by Monday, but it has been revealed that it will take longer than a week to process the cancellation of leases.

His comments came after PNG’s National Executive Council (NEC) ordered the cancellation of 25 Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) as recommended by a Commission of Inquiry.

Land Titles Registrar Benjamin Samson is overseeing the cancellation of leases and says the legal process will take longer than a week.

“By law we have to give [the leaseholders] 14 working days for them to deliver up the title, the owner’s copy that is in the hands of the leaseholders,” he said.

Mr Samson says the process is more involved than previously indicated, requiring ordering of summons for the 25 SABLs before lease cancellation.

“The law is designed as such that before cancellation is to be done a notice, which is called a summons has to be issued to the respective leaseholders,” he said.

“[Because] some leaseholders might want to challenge the decision that we would undertake but I mean, as the agent of state, we are here to comply with the decision of the government of the day so that is another matter for the leaseholders to pursue.”

Mr Samson says the return of land could be delayed further in the likely event that leaseholders decide to challenge the NEC’s decision in court.

“Well, if they do obtain an injunction, if the matter goes before the court, then of course we will have to await the outcome of the court decision before the cancellation can be fully-effected,” he said.

“I think a number of leaseholders, especially those lease-holders or those companies, who on the ground have expended a lot of money, they might want to pursue it in court but I am not sure.

“We will wait and see if we are served those court documents or not.”

Mr Samson expects the first leases to be cancelled by mid-July.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 371 days and counting…

June 30, 2014 1 comment

371

It is now 371 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.

It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry.

O’Neill has promised to cancel the leases and stop the illegal logging several times and two weeks ago he announced an NEC decision

But we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 371 days O’Neill has failed to implement the Commission of Inquiry findings, failed to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

peter-o-neill

The full NEC decision on the SABL land grab

June 27, 2014 2 comments

via ACT NOW!

Papua New Guinea Government

National Executive Council

Decision No: 184/2014

Subject: MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON SABL

On 12th June 2014, Council:

1. noted the contents of Policy Submission No. 157/2014;

2. approved to repeal the provisions of the Structural Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) in the Lands Act to prevent anymore SABL dealings since there are other facilities in the Lands Act that allow for voluntary land tenure conversion to leasehold if customary land owners desire to do so;

3. directed that the Department of Lands and Physical Planning continue to observe the previous NEC Decision not to process or issue any more SABL;

4. approved to revoke all SABLs recommended by the two Commission of Inquiry (COI) Reports to be revoked;

5. directed that subject to formal legal advice from the Department of Justice and Attorney General, the Department of Lands and Physical Planning and the Department of Environment and Conservation review existing SABLs and where legally sound to apply appropriate administrative procedures, including the use of show cause notices to holders of SABLs;

6. directed that after proper scrutiny and legal advice the Ministerial Committee may screen all SABLs not assessed by the two COI reports and to make known its findings and recommendations on a case by case basis;

7. directed that where appropriate in the interests of all the parties involved, certain SABLs can be made compliant by following the proper guidelines to be established by the Ministerial Committee upon sound legal advice and taking into consideration the recommendations of the respective COI Reports;

8. directed the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) to continue to observe the NEC Decision to not issue any more Forest Clearance Authority (FCA) to SABLs;

9. directed that the PNGFA be made a self-financing entity to be financed by a specific management levy based on export of all log and timber exports so that it can more properly implement its role as the regulator and facilitator of development of the forest industry in PNG;

10. directed that in place of the National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP), the Government establish an Agriculture Investment Corporation (AIC) as the investment vehicle for large scale agriculture developments which can also joint venture with resource owners to develop their timber resources in order to help landowners raise their equity in investment in large scale agriculture and re-afforestation projects on their lands;

11. directed that the Department of Lands and Physical Planning and the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) take steps including legislative amendments to transfer administration of the Incorporated Land Groups (ILGs) from the Department of Lands and Physical Planning to the IPA;

12. approved to establish a special SABL taskforce staffed by persons not previously involved in the issuance and administration of the SABL to be based with the Forest Ministry which shall report to the Ministerial Committee on SABL with an initial budget of K3 Million to:

  • (a) address matters raised by the findings of the COI,
  • (b) implement the recommendations of the COI,
  • (c) investigate all the other SABLs not investigated by the COI; and
  • (d) follow up the Decisions of the Ministerial Committee and the NEC pertaining to SABLs.

13. directed that the Department of Finance immediately release K3 million to PNGFA to finance the operations of the Special SABL Taskforce; and

14. approved that the Ministerial Committee shall determine the membership and composition of the Special SABL Taskforce and its terms of reference and of engagement.

I Certify the above to be a correct record of the Decisions reached by the National Executive Council

Peter O’Neill, CMG Chairman

Ilagi Veali, MPS Secretary, NEC

Date: 18th June 2014

Kila-Pat grilled over his role in SABL land grab scandal

June 26, 2014 1 comment
Critics say the leases are a back-door way to clear-fell forests and many have been granted without the permission of traditional owners. (Credit: ABC licensed)

The SABL leases are a back-door way to clear-fell forests and many were granted without the permission of traditional owners. (Credit: ABC)

ABC Radio Australia has challenged Department of Lands Secretary Romilly Kila-Pat over his role in the illegal SABL land grab – a role exposed on this blog.

The Commission of Inquiry found Kila Pat was at the centre of widespread corruption and mismanagement in the Department of Lands – the departments tasked with protecting landowners. But, bizarrely not only has he escaped any sanction, he is now the man expected to oversee the revocation of the leases.

Kila-Pat was clearly surprised to be challenged about his role in the SABL scandal:

GARRETT: The commission of inquiry identified tha Lands department as one of the biggest areas where corruption had taken place. What are you doing to ensure that officer involved in corruption do face justice?

KILA-PAT: Actually, i think we need to understand the process of SABL before we conclude there is corruption. The department of Lands and Physical Planning plays a facilitation role. The people who drive SABL are basically the landowners. They themselves come forward to the department and say we want this land to be issued an SABL title and we just facilitate the process of issuing an SABL title based on landowner requests.

GARRETT: Nevertheless, the fact that 25 SABLs are being cancelled and the Commission of Inquiry did find a lot of problems in the Lands department. Will any of your officer be disciplined or stood down from their roles and a result of their role in what has happened?

KILA-PAT: that is very important. I have made my commitments. I have started dealing with officers already. As and when those who are found to be doing something wrong, my position is very clear that we don’t need to have them in the department. We should let them go. But at this stage, we still have outstanding issues to be dealt with by the task force so as soon as they complete everything, we will deal with everything as it unfolds.

GARRETT: The Commission of Inquiry found you, yourself, had issued some Special Agricultural and business leases unlawfully. Should you be in charge of the department as it tries to fix this problem?

KILA-PAT: um, I think what has actually happened now is that I am not going to fix the problems because the task force has been set up so everything will be dealt with by the taskforce. Basically, there are a number of issues that we need to deal with. I think one that is very, very critical in nature is the legislation. OK. The legislation that deals with the issuance of SABLs needs to be changed but, in this case, we are now repealing that particular law that allowed for SABLs. We now have a new law which is under customary land registration where landowners can now come and register their customary land.

GARRETT: Will you be investigated along with other officers named in the commission of Inquiry report?

KILA-PAT: That is a matter of the task force, should the task force make those appropriate recommendations, then like I said, the government has now made recommendations for a task force to be set up to look into this matter.

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